One of the High School students in the program shared with us an essay she submitted at school to her civics class that we thought you all might appreciate:
Community Service Essay
Every Saturday for the past four years, I have spent time at the Albanian Youth Center (AYC). This community center started off with some Albanian kids who wanted to learn Albanian folk dances, meet other Albanian young people, and help the public to better understand Albanian culture. In the beginning, there were not many adults involved, and it was all run mostly by students, but over the years this small group has transformed into an organization. Many parents and other adults have helped fund the organization to allow for more activities and improved facilities. Many things have changed.
Recently, I started volunteering at the Center to help a professional instructor teach kids how to dance to Albanian folk music. My job at the AYC is to help the kids learn the dance steps and watch over some of the younger ones who need extra supervision and guidance.
Some of the students are as young as five or six, and the teacher needs help keeping them focused and going over the steps.
Being a part of this organization has been life changing for me because it has allowed me to meet other kids in Greenwich and from other neighboring communities who have the same background as I do. Both of my parents are Albanian, so it is important to keep the Albanian traditions alive in our family. When I first started going to the AYC, I wasn’t very excited about it, because I was born in Greenwich and don’t even speak Albanian. I didn’t understand how important it was to connect to my family’s heritage and how much it would mean to me. Since I started going to the AYC, I have met life long friends, helped inspire the Albanian community to become more connected through yearly events, and best of all, I have become better connected to my own heritage by helping younger kids learn how to love and embrace our culture and understand what a blessing it is to be a part of a community that supports and encourages each other.
Watching the AYC grow from a casual “hang out” with a few kids to a real organization with activities and lots of members means a lot to me. The AYC helps make sure that Albanian traditions and culture stay alive for young Albanian-Americans who are living most of their lives as Americans. Without the AYC, a lot of kids will either forget or never learn about Albanian folk dancing, Albanian cooking, and Albanian dancing, let alone language. It is very important to maintain a connection to family culture, because it is these differences that help define us as individuals. We are all Americans, but most of our families came here from other parts of the world, and the AYC makes sure that Albanian families don’t lose their Albanian roots.
Today the AYC is a cultural center and a school with language classes, dance classes, history classes, soccer lessons, math tutoring, and culinary events. It is an outpost of Albania in Connecticut. As the website explains, the AYC’s goal, “is to preserve and teach the next generation the beautiful and ancient Albanian language, history and culture including activities such as traditional folk dance, vocal coaching, sports and tutoring. Classes meet every Saturday and are taught and managed by US certified teachers, instructors and award winning performers.” (Albanian
Youth Center). As someone who has been with the AYC since the very beginning, I can say for sure that the AYC is achieving all of these objectives.
(Source: Facebook page of Albanian Youth Center)
AYC – Where your child can preserve our heritage by learning Albanian language, history and culture.
AYC students have been exposed to a great deal in recent months, including classroom experiences, sports activities, dance training, distinguished lecturers and field trips, among so many more cherished moments. In addition, we have been working diligently in collaboration with parents, teachers and volunteer staff on how to improve the program for an even more successful new year.
01-12-19: First Day of Winter Semester. AN Open House was offered for parents to bring their children to the program and explore the facility. (Photos posted on FB 1/12/19)
**AYC website now accepts online registration with the option to pay online, as well.